Raman Singh, the Doctor of Kawardha and BJP’s Longest-Serving CM, Dethroned by Voter Fatigue
If electoral politics were about pure arithmetic, Raman Singh would have won the Chhattisgarh elections hands down. But that was not to be.
Illustration by Mir Suhail/News18.com
Raipur: Three-time Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief minister in Chhattisgarh, Raman Singh’s record run is all set to come to an end. The latest rounds of counting reveal that the Congress is ahead in 67 seats while the BJP is ahead in 17 seats.
Singh has, electorally, been the most successful BJP CM holding fort for the party for 15 consecutive years in Chhattisgarh. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan had ruled Gujarat and MP for 13 years each.
Fighting to get a fourth term, Raman Singh contested the elections on the back of good governance and development in the state. Raman Singh is currently leading Congress's Karuna Shukla, the niece of the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in the Rajnandgaon seat. In 2013, Raman Singh won from the same seat by a margin of 36,000 votes. Several exit polls had predicted a neck-and-neck fight between the big two and some projected victory for the Rahul Gandhi-led party.
Chhattisgarh, which has 90 seats, saw the BJP getting 49 seats and the Congress 39 in the last elections.
If electoral politics were about pure arithmetic, Raman Singh would have won the Chhattisgarh elections hands down. But that was not to be. The formation of the third front in Chhattisgarh with Ajit Jogi and Mayawati joining hands was widely expected to dent the Congress’s prospects in the tribal state.
Jogi, who commands popularity amongst the Dalits Satnami population in central Chhattisgarh, could have walked away with a large chunk of Congress’s traditional vote bank to hand over a comfortable victory to Raman Singh.
However, the data released by the Election Commission of India shows that Jogi indeed took away almost 9 percent of the Congress’s vote in the three divisions of Durg, Raipur and Bilaspur; thereby bringing down Congress’s vote percentage from 40.3 percent to 31 percent.
However, the Congress seems to have made up for this deficit by aggressively poaching on the BJP’s traditional backward votes in the state. The latest figures show that the Congress could have walked away with almost 8-10 percent of the BJP’s Sahu-Kurmi and OBC votes in the states and, in the process, also bring down the BJP’s votes from last elections by almost 9 percent.
Chhattisgarh elections have generally been a close contest with the winning margins being less than 1 percent. But with an almost 10 percent lead, the Congress has won a two-thirds majority in the state.
Chhattisgarh went to polls in 2008 soon after the inception of the anti-insurgency operation carried out by state-sponsored Salwa Judum against the Naxalite violence in the region. The odds against the incumbent BJP were many, including the violence that had been unleashed by the Salwa Judum and the criticism it garnered, and the rate of farmer suicides. Yet, the BJP managed to gain a sweeping majority in the state winning 53 out of 90 seats.
Raman Singh, who was the chief minister since 2003, emerged stronger and retained his position since then.
Born in October 1952, Singh completed his education from Government Ayurvedic College in Rampur. In 1976, at the age of 24, he joined the Jana Sangh as a youth member in Kawardha. By the 1980s, he had become a full-fledged politician and was elected to the Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly in 1990 and 1993. In 1999, he won a seat for himself in the Lok Sabha which he retained till 2003.
Despite the fact that in the course of 18 years, the state continues to battle poverty and agrarian distress, Raman Singh’s government has received attention for the number of welfare measures that it introduced in the course of the 15-odd years that it has been in power.
The state of Chhattisgarh was carved out of Madhya Pradesh in 2000 as a means of empowering the Adivasis who formed the majority of the population in the region and also for giving linguistic autonomy to the people of the region. Since the formation of the state, it has only had two chief ministers, Ajit Jogi being the first one to lead the state and Singh following soon after in 2003 and remaining in the post since then.
Singh’s decision to fight Naxalism through the Salwa Judum though was severely criticised for the human rights violations it led to. In 2011, it was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. However, despite the condemnation received by Singh, his fight against red terror continued to win him votes from the people in successive elections.
It is also worth noting that for the most part of Singh’s 15-year tenure, the state has remained largely untouched by any major corruption scam. It is only in recent years that Singh came under attack for the public distribution system scam. Lately, he has also been accused of being involved in the AgustaWestland chopper case.
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